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Explosive Violence in October 2023

In October 2023, Action on Armed Violence recorded 8,047 deaths and injuries from 993 incidents of explosive violence around the world, as reported in English-language media. Civilians accounted for 84% (6,748) of the deaths and injuries recorded.

When explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 95% (6,649) of the casualties were civilians, compared to 10% (99) in other areas.

Manufactured explosive weapons accounted for 96% (6,488) of civilian casualties, while improvised explosive weapons (IEDs) accounted for 3% (215) of these civilian casualties in October 2023. Of the main launch-method types of manufactured explosive weapons, ground-launched explosive weapons accounted for 19% (1,302) of civilian casualties, air-launched weapons were responsible for 72% (4,848) of civilian casualties, and landmines were responsible for <1% (23) of civilian casualties.

At least one death or injury from the use of explosive weapons was recorded in 32 countries and territories in October 2023. The five most affected countries and territories in terms of civilian casualties from the use of explosive weapons were Gaza (4,583 civilian casualties), Ukraine (568), Syria (518), Israel (337), and Myanmar (197).

GAZA

In October 2023, there were 321 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Gaza, 297 of which resulted in 4,583 civilian casualties, of whom 3,099 were killed and 1,484 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 309 children, 128 women, and 124 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 99% of all 4,649 casualties recorded in Gaza in October, as there were also 66 reported armed-actor casualties, of whom 59 were killed and 7 injured. Due to the consistent and frequent attacks in populated areas using explosive weapons, incident-specific reporting of casualties in Gaza is a slow and laborious process, with many reports coming in weeks after the incident. This, added to the difficulty in tracking rising casualty tolls and attributing deaths and injuries to specific strikes, means that AOAV’s October data for Gaza is, as it stands, likely to be a significant undercounting.

The majority of civilian casualties, 99.7% (4,572), occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 69% (3,158) occurred in urban residential areas, 13% (592) in encampments, 6% in hospitals (284) and on roads (276) respectively, 2% (70) in places of worship, 1% in schools (56), entertainment venues (36), at public gatherings (27), and in commercial premises (24) respectively, and less than 1% across multiple urban areas (14), in villages (13), in transport infrastructure (12), on agricultural land (6), in public buildings (3), and in town centres (1) respectively.

The regions in which civilian casualties were reported in Gaza in October are North Gaza (2,252 civilian casualties), South Gaza (1,817), and Central Gaza (514). 

94% (4,327) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Israel. Non-state actors, specifically unknown non-state actors, caused 6% (256) of civilian casualties. 

The use of air-launched weapons caused 94% (4,286) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (3,856 civilian casualties), and air-launched missiles (430). Weapons of unclear launch method, specifically missiles, caused 6% (256) of civilian casualties. The use of ground-launched weapons caused 1% (41) of civilian casualties in Gaza in October, specifically non-specific shelling (20 civilian casualties), artillery shelling (18), and tank shells (3).

The number of incidents and civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Gaza in October 2023 rose significantly compared to levels recorded in September, in which two incidents injured three civilians. This is reflective of Israel’s military operation in Gaza, Operation Iron Swords, in response to Hama’s incursion into Israel and subsequent massacre of civilians and soldiers on October 7th. In August 2023, there were no reported incidents of explosive weapons use in Gaza. 

UKRAINE

In October 2023, there were 229 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Ukraine, 225 of which caused 568 civilian casualties, 158 of whom were killed and 410 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 24 children, 110 women and 133 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 97% of all 583 casualties in Ukraine in October, as 15 armed actor casualties were also recorded, two of whom were killed and 13 injured.

96% (548) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 41% (234) of civilian casualties occurred in urban residential areas, 25% (143) in villages, 13% (72) across multiple urban areas, 11% (65) in public gatherings, 1% on public transport (7), other populated locations (7), schools (7), and transport infrastructure (6) respectively, and less than 1% in hospitals (2), places of worship (2), town centres (2), and entertainment venues (1). 

The oblasts in which civilian casualties were reported in Ukraine in October are Kherson (202 civilian casualties), Kharkiv (16), Donetsk (103), Zaporizhzhia (29), Dnipropetrovsk (23), Khmelnytskyi (18), Odessa (10), Mykolaiv (7), Sumy (6), Poltava (3), Chernihiv (3), Luhansk (1), Kirovohrad (1), Crimea (1), and Cherkasy (1). 

The majority of civilian casualties, 99.6% (566), were attributed to state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Russia (558 civilian casualties), unknown state actors (6), and Ukraine (2). Actors of unknown name and status and unknown non-state actors caused less than 1% (1) of civilian casualties respectively.

The use of ground-launched weapons caused 71% (404) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (236 civilian casualties), ground-launched missiles (118), artillery shelling (32), ground-launched (8), mortar shelling (8), tank shelling (1), and combined ground-launched weapons (1). Air-launched weapons caused 14% (80) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (64), air-launched missiles (10), air-dropped bombs (5), and combined air-launched weapons (1). Combined explosive weapons resulted in 6% (36) of civilian casualties. Weapons of unclear launch method caused 6% (35) of civilian casualties, specifically missiles (30), and rockets (5). Mines, specifically landmines, caused 1% (8) of civilian casualties. The use of naval-launched weapons caused 1% (4) of civilian casualties, and IEDs caused less than 1% (1) of civilian casualties.

The number of civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Ukraine in October 2023 decreased compared to levels recorded in September, when 230 incidents caused 689 civilian casualties, 129 of whom were killed and 560 injured. In August, 271 incidents were recorded, which caused 915 civilian casualties (134 killed, 781 injured).

SYRIA

In October 2023, there were 155 recorded incidents of explosive weapon use in Syria, 87 of which caused 518 civilian casualties, 165 of whom were killed and 353 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 64 children, 77 women, and 52 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 56% of the total 919 casualties of explosive weapon use, as 401 armed-actor casualties were also recorded, 222 of whom were killed and 179 injured.

97% (501) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 40% (206) occurred at public gatherings, 35% (183) in urban residential areas, 11% (56) in villages, 4% (23) in encampments, 2% across multiple urban areas (11) and armed bases (8) respectively, 1% in transport infrastructure (7), hospitals (3), and commercial premises (3) respectively, and less than 1% (1) in schools.

The governorates in which civilian casualties were reported in Syria in October are Homs (206 civilian casualties), Idlib (169), Aleppo (62), Hasakah (37), Hama (19), Raqqa (9), Deir Ezzor (6), Daraa (5), Latakia (3), and Damascus (2). 

52% (268) of civilian casualties were caused by state actors’ use of explosive weapons, specifically Syria (165 civilian casualties), Turkey (52), Russia (43), Israel (7), and unknown state actors (1). Non-state actors’ use of explosive weapons caused 46% (237) of civilian casualties, specifically unknown non-state actors (215 civilian casualties), Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (17), Al-Fath Al-Mubin (4), and the Syrian Democratic Forces (1). Actors of unknown name and status caused 3% (13) of civilian casualties in Syria in October.

The use of air-launched weapons caused 57% (293) of civilian casualties, specifically air strikes (276 civilian casualties) and air-launched missiles (17). Ground-launched weapons caused 38% (196) of civilian casualties, specifically the use of artillery shelling (85), non-specific shelling (58), ground-launched rockets (52), and RPGs (1). Weapons of unclear launch method caused 3% (17) of civilian casualties, specifically rockets (12) and missiles (5). IEDs resulted in 2% (12) of civilian casualties, specifically car bombs (8), non-specific IEDs (3), and roadside bombs (1).

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Syria in October 2023 increased considerably compared to September, when 99 incidents caused 140 reported civilian casualties (34 killed, 106 injured). In August, 80 incidents of explosive weapon use were recorded, which resulted in 125 reported civilian casualties (31 killed, 94 injured).

ISRAEL

In October 2023, there were 85 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Israel, 69 of which resulted in 337 civilian casualties, 128 of whom were killed and 209 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 11 children, 13 women, and 48 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 88% of all 381 casualties in Israel in October, as 44 armed actors casualties were also recorded, 15 of whom were killed and 29 injured. This data reflects both Hamas’ incursion into Israel and subsequent massacre of civilians and soldiers on October 7th, as well as their use, predominantly, of firearms to carry out the attack. Furthermore, since the 7th of October, rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel from both central Gaza and northern Lebanon.

93% (314) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 79% (266) occurred in urban residential areas, 11% (36) at public gatherings, 3% (11) in villages, and less than 1% (1) in hospitals.

The regions in which civilian casualties were recorded in Israel in October are Southern Israel (237 civilian casualties), Central Israel (45), Tel Aviv (29), Northern Israel (22), Jerusalem (3), and Haifa (1).

All civilian casualties were caused by non-state actors, specifically Hamas (318 civilian casualties), Hezbollah (16), and unknown non-state actors (3). 

The use of ground-launched weapons caused 98% (330) of civilian casualties, specifically ground-launched rockets (217 civilian casualties), combined ground-launched weapons (53), grenade (39), ground-launched missiles (10), RPGs (7), and mortar shelling (4). IEDs caused 1% (4) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific IEDs (2) and car bombs (2). Weapons of unclear launch method caused 1% (3) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Israel in October 2023 increased considerably compared to September, when no incidents or casualties were recorded. In August, one incident injured one civilian. This highlights the acute and continuing impact of Hamas’ 7th October massacre on Israel’s civilian population.

MYANMAR

In October 2023, there were 74 incidents of explosive weapon use recorded in Myanmar, 32 of which resulted in 197 civilian casualties, 61 of whom were killed and 136 injured. Civilian casualties included at least 26 children, 14 women, and 10 men. Overall, civilians accounted for 45% of all 438 casualties recorded in Myanmar in October, as 241 armed actor casualties were also recorded, 163 of whom were killed and 78 injured. 

99% (196) of civilian casualties occurred in populated areas. Specifically, 45% (89) occurred in encampments, 36% (71) in villages, 12% (23) in urban residential areas, and 7% (13) in places of worship.

The states in which civilian casualties were recorded in Myanmar in October are Kachin (100 civilian casualties), Shan (39), Sagaing (17), Magway (13), Bago (9), Tanintharyi (6), Karen (5), Rakhine (3), Mon (2), Kayah (2), and Chin (1).

State actors, specifically the Myanmar military, caused 91% (180), of civilian casualties, while the military-affiliated Pyu Saw Htee militia caused 5% (10) of civilian casualties. Actors of unknown name and status caused 4% (7) of civilian casualties.

Air-launched weapons, specifically air strikes, caused 63% (124) of civilian casualties. The use of ground-launched weapons 29% (57) of civilian casualties, specifically non-specific shelling (32 civilian casualties), and artillery shelling (25). Combined explosive weapons caused 5% (9) of civilian casualties, and mines, specifically landmines, caused 4% (7) of civilian casualties.

Civilian casualties of explosive weapon use in Myanmar in October 2023 increased considerably compared to September, when 61 incidents caused 127 reported civilian casualties, 30 of whom were killed and 97 injured. In August, 83 incidents were recorded, which resulted in 134 civilian casualties (28 killed, 106 injured).



AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.